5E Derro – Out of the Abyss

Buppido (Out of the Abyss)

This is Buppido, a derro prisoner encountered at the start of WotC’s 5E supplement, Out of the Abyss, the tabletop component of their latest epic cross platform event, Rage of Demons

Further details, background and motivations / goals for Buppido are given on page 6, but it will come as no surprise that he’s mad, bad and quite certainly dangerous to know on so many levels… but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll leave the extent of his primary personality traits for your to find out yourselves

But he’s not the only derro in the supplement, which is the first 5E product to give us the latest incarnation of derro, there’s a whole ghetto  of a duergar city known as Gracklstugh filled with the degenerates…

The following post below may contain some spoilers, so reader beware!

2018 Addit: I’ve now added some more thoughts on 5E derro in a later post

This post will not be a review of the module but rather some thoughts on the way derro are reintroduced and portrayed in Chapter 4 of this 5E supplement as their inclusion reflects the latest incarnation of derro for the Forgotten Realms setting.


The usual staple Realms derro elements remain: extreme insanity, deluded creation myth involving Diirinika, actual mind flayer slave origin, and their periodic cultural population check mechanism known as the “Uniting War”. All well and good, although not remotely Shaverian, which likely intentionally sets them firmly apart from the PFRPG conception.

Some additional advice for the DM on playing out the differences between duergar and derro can be found in a small sidebar on page 54.

Second-Class Citizens?

A big change however is the fact that derro no longer have their own settlements – the “Second Class Citizens” paragraph in the main description states the derro only form enclaves within other non-derro settlements and because of their disorganisation and insanity are exploited as slaves or treated at best like vermin. This extends to the general random encounter tables as well – derro are not even listed as one of the options for humanoid encounters (Ambushers, Escaped Slaves, Raiders, Scout), not even for the “Mad Creature” encounter.

So although derro have always been considered a relatively minor Underdark race in the Realms compared to Greyhawk or Golarion, this is a definite demotion of the derro to effectively a duergar minion caste, but does make some sense given their insanity and chaotic alignment. Even their origin story is essentially the same as the duergar now, as this Reddit article points out.

Statistically Speaking

A full 5E write up is given on page 224, with a small sidebar for 5E derro savants on the next page (see below for further comment). The now standard 3 hit dice, high Dexterity and abysmal Wisdom, sunlight sensitivity, darkvision, improved spell resistance, insanity bonus to being charmed or frightened and Stealth bonus are all 5E interpretations of the 3.5E abilities and carry across with minor adjustment.

Notable changes are that the spell-like abilities have completely disappeared, Charisma has dropped off significantly, the fauchard is now the melee only “hooked-spear”, the aklys remains unmentioned and the overall CR has dropped significantly to 1/4 (not sure about exact PFRPG CR equivalency in 5E admittedly but seems like a downgrading).

5E savant derro_art
Sample 5E Derro Savant (Out of the Abyss)

A Word about 5E Savants So Far…

The savant detailed in the accompanying sidebar on page 225 (presumably represented by the image to the left on the same page) seems familiar enough – high Cha score (14, +2), casts sorcerer spells at 5th level using Cha, same spell progression as a sorcerer…

Same size, heavy dwarven features with same crazy hair and eyes… the fungi growing on his staff is a nice additional artistic touch.

Hit dice seem skewed high however at 49hp (11d6+11) rather than the expected 36 (8d6+8) – not sure if this needs to be official errata, although the resultant CR of 4 seems at least proportional for a 5E creature I guess.

His spells cross the usual combat schools of alteration, evocation and illusion but there’s not a lot of subtlety here – this base version of a savant is used throughout as a combat caster mini-boss without a lot more depth or character development frankly, which could possibly be seen as a series of missed opportunites. I suspect it was likely a compromise to speed play and provide efficient use of limited page length or space restrictions.

5E Derro Savant from OotA

Hopefully will see savants developed more in future 5E supplements.

Notable Derro Characters

Buppido is mentioned above as he starts as a prisoner with the PCs. He thinks he’s the reincarnation of Diirinika, which makes him even more insane than the usual derro but despite his delusions of godhood and a detailed shrine lair on page 70, he’s just a basic derro in terms of game stats. Simple, but still a great character concept to build on.

droki imagesDroki is a mysterious time obsessed derro courier, like some kind of bizarre derro cross between Jarlaxle and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

The “Finding Droki” section pages 68-70 details his goals, motivations and equipment further, but he’s still mechanically a basic derro rather than having some levels in Rogue, which seems the logical advancement to develop what is otherwise one of the more memorable NPCs that could potentially be used as a recurring character.

Y (Out of the Abyss)

Y is a real oddity, a derro savant member of “the Society of Brilliance” – a peripatetic group of Neutral alignment, hyper-intelligent (Int 18, +4) sage-like individuals from an assortment of disparate Underdark races that investigate faezress infused areas.

The members of the society can provide directions to nearby settlements for the players, but seem to have little else to do and no details of their interactions with other Underdark factions are sadly omitted.

As an example of a Neutral savant, I think Y has a lot of potential as a recurring character or basis for a further discussion but there’s not really any development or goals presented in the supplement.

Finally the various derro cultists of Demogorgon are mentioned but not detailed beyond their basic encounters. The two named savants: Narrak and Pliinki are mentioned as cultists but they are otherwise not really distinguishable in character from each other.

Addit: the duergar alchemist, Lorthio, encountered in the same Whorlstone Tunnel section as the cultists could have easily been a variant derro savant in my opinion, requiring only a minor modification to Droki’s delivery quest.

Summary Thoughts

This is really only a cameo level outing for the derro – they’re used as secondary antagonists in a small section of the overall story arc and have been downsized in power considerably, their impact diluted to a role as the dregs or “untouchables” of the larger duergar society they squat in.

Sadly to me, it’s almost like they’ve become the 5E Realms equivalent of Krynn’s Gully Dwarves (Aghar,) but without the comic relief aspect.

Buppido, Droki and mostly Y are interesting characters in themselves with a lot of potential in the hands of a skilled DM but overall are left relatively underdeveloped and play no significant role in the over-arching story, perhaps again reflecting the low status of derro in the 5E Realms.

I’d like to hope we see more development of derro in 5E sooner rather than later, but I wonder whether their reinforced underclass status will limit their appearances in future products to similar cameo roles.

2018 Addit: there’s more 5E derro material in Unlikely Heroes, discussed in this post.






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